Standard Gruul Legends Guide: The Most Explosive Deck in Standard
Hello wizards, warriors, clerics, and rogues. It is time to explore the Forgotten Realms of D&D in Magic! While test playing for the new Standard format one deck seems to stand out among the early front runners and that is Gruul Legends.
This deck is made possible by the pure power of Bard Class.
Its level 1 is decent, while not immediately impacting the board, sets up future plays by making our creatures larger. This is a nice quality of life effect that adds to the explosive nature of the deck.
Level 2 is where this card becomes insane, and makes this deck so blistering fast by reducing the cost of all legends by 2. This means we can play creatures like Gallia of the Endless Dance and Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll – FOR FREE!!! Insane right? Well how about casting Grumgully, the Generous, Klothys, God of Destiny, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, and Radha, Heart of Keld for 1? Crazy I know!
There are a few variations of this deck floating around and the definitive “best” list is still up in the air. But the variation I have been the most impressed with is the more aggressive version with a lower curve. The reason I like this list so much more than the others is due to the fact it does not try to overstep its boundaries. Other lists I have seen try to slam threats like Phylath, World Sculptor and Kogla, the Titan Ape, which is fine, but these lists are slow and fall behind easily with no real way to catch back up.
The blitz list does not seem to have this issue since it gets under so much of the meta and just out classes other creature decks with our lower costed threats. Sure, the deck isn’t as fast if it don’t find Bard Class, but without the enchantment, the deck plays like a standard Gruul Midrange deck since none of the cards are “weak” on their own which has proven itself to be effective.
This is my current list:
Playing the Deck
Early game you will always lead on Jaspera Sentinel if you have it. Then get Bard Class down ASAP, and level it up on turn three. This is when this deck becomes the most explosive deck in standard, and we can now cast under costed threats!
I will always cast the free 2-drop spells, but the three drops are up to you. I advise getting Grumgully, the Generous in play as fast as possible even before the free spells to enable his effect on buffing other spells we play. If you were lucky enough to lead on Sentinel, then you can really look to unload.
If you do not have Bard Class, it is still fine. Sentinel is still the correct turn one play. But now instead of being explosive, we are looking to play the grindy “my creatures are better than yours” game. Cards like Spikefield Hazard and Shatterskull Smashing keep aggro decks from swarming us or be our lands in a pinch.
Magda, Brazen Outlaw plays nicely with Sentinel as tapping her for mana creates a treasure token which only speeds us up more. This can be a fantastic alternative to Bard Class if you do not have it. I will generally cast any two drop I can over Gallia of the Endless Dance, since she has haste, and it adds up to more damage in the long run.
Getting Esika, God of the Tree online is also very good. She allows us to turn virtually all our creatures into mana dorks to swarm the field and since it gives them vigilance we can attack with our large threats and still block. Drawing a second copy is even better since we can use her and our other creatures to cast The Prismatic Bridge to always have a constant stream of pressure, and it is not hard to cast since Bard Class reduces it by RG and Esika allows our creatures to tap for any color with her in play, or we can use the treasures from Magda, Brazen Outlaw.
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate is also very important for hands where you do not have Bard Class and the game goes into deeper waters, since she acts like an Experimental Frenzy for creatures. Using her +1 to make a beast means we are never without something on the board. While her -2 works fantastically with cards like Questing Beast finding whatever we need at that moment, or just casting a 3-drop to find a Sentinel to set up big mana plays or 2-drop to apply pressure.
If you are lucky enough to go into the late game with Bard Class, LEVEL IT UP. The pseudo-Light up the Stage effect every time you cast a legendary spell is HUGE and not to be understated. This can really pull you ahead after a sweeper or just building enough of a board to break a ground stall.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+1 Zariel, Archduke of Avernus||-4 Bonecrusher Giant|
|+2 Garruk, Unleashed|
|+1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets|
This matchup is like playing ordinary Gruul into Ultimatum. We cut Bonecrusher as the Stomp ability is usually irrelevant, and a 4/3 body is just “okay.” We bring in all our planeswalkers as they do not die to sweepers and effectively become the best threats in our deck.
The trick is getting under them or building up enough of a board to where a single ultimatum is not game over. Toski can pull a lot of weight and draw us a lot of cards when he sticks around and can only really be removed with an Extinction Event.
|+2 Chainweb Aracnir||-4 Bonecrusher Giant|
|+2 Run Afoul||-2 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate|
|+2 Fire Prophecy|
Ah Rouges, how I despise you. This matchup is a tempo game. They come low and come hard on two angles, being mill out and damage. This matchup can be hard, but they do not have a way to interact with Bard Class once it is in play, so get it down as soon and safely as possible to make things easier.
We bring in Chainweb Aracnir to empty our yard and be a great blocker. Run Afoul is a cheap way to remove their threats, as is Fire Prophecy.
|+2 Redcap Melee||-3 Klothys, God of Destiny|
|+2 Fire Prophecy||-2 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate|
|+2 Thrashing Brontodon||-1 Arni Brokenbrow|
The only way to lose this matchup is if they get under us. But we beat them by going bigger. I cut Klothys because it cannot always block. Viven is slow and Arni is blocked too easily to be effective. We bring in Redcap Melee and Fire Prophecy as our premium removal. Thrashing Brontodon is a giant blocker and removes Embercleave,
|+2 Fire Prophecy||-1 Arni Brokenbrow|
|+2 Thrashing Brontodon||-3 Klothys, God of Destiny|
This matchup is like the Mono Red, but they can curve a threat into Maul of the Skyclaves and it can be hard to deal with, but we can race it with a decent hand. I cut Arni and Klothys because they are poor versus creatures and bring in Fire Prophecy as removal and Thrashing Brontodon to remove Maul of the Skyclaves or any other troublesome noncreature.
If they are trying to do The Book of Exalted Deeds + Faceless Haven combo, bring in a Field of Ruin over a Forest.
|+2 Fire Prophecy||-2 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate|
They are much slower than Mono Red and Mono White, but they go a bit bigger. We still outclass them after turn three with a decent draw. I cut Viven because she is show and the 3/3s are negligible, not to mention they have Questing Beast that makes planeswalkers look silly. We bring in Fire Prophecy to slow them down a bit.
|+2 Run Afoul||-4 Bonecrusher Giant|
|+2 Redcap Melee|
This is like a slow tempo deck. They cannot really interact well with Bard Class unless they have Brazen Borrower. If we set up on them this matchup is a breeze. They are also very slow. We cut Bonecrusher Giant as it is just bad here and does not remove anything. Run Afoul and Redcap Melee are a great cheap way to remove their dragons.
Tips and Tricks
Remember that The Prismatic Bridge can be played with Treasure tokens and tapping mana producing creatures.
Esika, God of the Tree gives your legendary creatures vigilance as well as the ability to tap for mana.
Tapping Magda, Brazen Outlaw with Jaspera Sentinel for a mana also makes a Treasure token.
Always try to lead on Grumgully, the Generous if you can for bonus counters.
Bard Class does not affect the mana value of a spell cast. This means that you can -2 Viven, cast a Questing Beast for three and still find a 3-drop.
Remember to hold at least one card in hand if you need to pitch to Gallia of the Endless Dance.
I think this deck is a strong contender for “best deck” and replaces the former Gruul Aggro deck in the meta. Being able to be the most explosive deck while being able to go into the midgame with a plan B is just a recipe for success. I think we will be seeing a lot more of it in the future and as the list gets more refined, we will start to see it become even more powerful.
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